Sarah Palin's ever-increasing stream of scandals, blunders and utter fiascoes are probably making thousands of journalists' careers lately. However if anything, for those of us working to get Team Obama elected, they pose a problem-- the sheer volume, scale and outrageousness of the Palingates makes it difficult to pick and choose which scandals to focus on most and shine the light on, to drum in the message about McCain/Palin and the Republicans as the crooks that they are.
So herewith, I've prioritized the Palin scandals in order of the ones with IMHO the most "pay dirt" and ability to damage McCain, showing how ridiculously unfit and dangerous his judgment is. Other criteria include ability to resonate with the public through sound bite references, ability to easily remember the scandal ("goes well with Gate"), ability to sway both high-information and low-information voters, ability for us foot soldiers to help magnify the effect, and most of all: Ability to infuriate the ENTIRE POLITICAL SPECTRUM, not only Democrats and Independents but even Republicans so much that they ditch John McCain and vote for Bob Barr or Chuck Baldwin instead.
When I refer to us foot soldiers "magnifying the effect" of these scandals, I'm referring to frequent and repeated mentions in the mainstream print and broadcast media rather just blogs, e.g. letters to the editor, call-ins to radio shows, stories brought to local TV broadcasters and so on. Whenever you do this, be sure to encapsulate the relevant scandal with the appropriate "-Gate" designation (see below) and finish by nailing Sarah Palin and nailing John McCain himself with your criticism for his awful judgment, as McCain is of course the ultimate target.
Without further ado, the Palingate rankings.
Background: Sarah Palin as mayor attempting to fire Wasilla Library Director Mary Ellen Emmons, because Emmons refused to ban books that Palin arbitrarily considered "offensive." Palin stepped into some deep doo-doo with this-- it generated such outrage among Wasillans that they nearly carried Palin out on a rail, and she reversed her decision later.
Lowdown: I'm a bit surprised Librarygate hasn't gotten as much attention (in the MSM and the Blogs) as Palin's other too-many-to-count scandals, since it's really the one that damns Palin to Hell across the political spectrum and on which she, McCain and the GOP have no defense at all. Librarygate has everything: An attempt to censor (big no-no in this country), incredible corruption and abuse of power on Palin's part (trying to fire Emmons), evidence of a medievalistic worldview, no redeeming factors in the decision, and a popular and very public outcry that left Palin with gobs of egg on her face. What's even better is that Librarygate is a perfect trap for the McCain and Palin backers, and we've got them either way. If they try to hem and haw, and claim some BS about how Palin fired Emmons for other reasons, they'll only look foolish, lame, and desperate-- picking on a dedicated public servant and a librarian of all people-- and if they try to ignore it, we'll still just continue to hammer away.
If we had to choose one and only one of the Palingates to fire off volley after volley of letters to the editor and radio call-ins about, Librarygate should be the one. I've focus-tested the Palingates, and Librarygate is the most surefire one to incense even hardcore conservative Republicans. One of my otherwise-stalwart Republican pals is now checking out the Bob Barr campaign, another is opting for Chuck Baldwin. Librarygate is paydirt central.
(good for the Emmons and other political firings)
Background: In the town of Wasilla, with barely 7,000 people, Sarah Palin ran up a long-term debt of $20 million, which comes out to about $3,000 per person. She accomplished this feat with such gems as ordering the construction of a multimillion dollar skating rink that never got completed and other forms of malfeasance that overwhelmed the state budget despite the numerous earmarks and subsidies that Wasilla received.
Lowdown: Debtgate is another big winner for us on multiple fronts. It's an indefensible failure and a marker of monumental incompetence on Palin's part, and it again points to her corruption and ineptitude in passing on such a severe burden to ordinary Wasillans, IOUSA-style.
But most of all, Debtgate has the virtue of cruelly (for McCain and Palin) focusing attention on the floundering economy, and linking McCain and Palin directly to it with their policies and failures. Remember, the overall winning theme for the Obama campaign is economic populism; the Republicans are desperately trying to frame the images here and turn Obama into a latte-sipping Washington elitist. Obama is winning because he's been parrying this, turning himself instead into a Populist defender of ordinary Americans during extremely difficult economic times, while McCain and Palin are hopelessly out of touch, and corrupt to boot. The misery index in the USA right now (combination of unemployment, underemployment and inflation) is extremely high, foreclosures are up, both earning and spending are down and people overwhelmingly see the economy moving in the wrong direction.
So when we send off our letters to the editor and call into the radio shows, it's important to make reference to the current recession at every opportunity. Don't get distracted by these idiotic academic debates about whether or not this is a "technical recession" or not, as economists are still arguing over the definition and it's not even declared until after the fact-- for the vast majority of ordinary people across the USA, who feel the misery index quite personally, this is definitely a recession. Thus, in our letters drawing attention to the failures of Palin (as well as McCain and Bush), it's important to link their policies to the recession at every opportunity, and note how Obama is standing up for hard-hit Americans.
OK with the 2 biggies out of the way, a little faster with the others:
Background: Little introduction needed-- Sarah Palin piously claiming to have opposed the infamous Bridge to Nowhere, yet in fact having originally been a major proponent for it.
Lowdown: Besides the way that Bridge + Gate rolls of the tongue, Bridgegate brings to mind an infamous and egregious case of misallocation of government resources, it's easy to follow, indefensible, and it showcases Palin lying through her teeth.
Toplink: A good link for this and other examples of corruption is the recent NYT editorial-- http://www.nytimes.com/...
Background: Similar to Librarygate. Palin fired highly-respected and long-serving Wasilla police chief Irl Stambaugh after Stambaugh, concerned about a rapid increase in drunk-driving accidents, moved to have Wasilla bars shut down operations by 2 a.m. rather than 5 a.m. Palin had received heavy support from the bar owners.
Lowdown: Policegate is a nice scandal for many reasons. First and foremost, it's the scandal that ultimately brought about the recall effort against Sarah Palin that represents the biggest popular revolt she's suffered while in office. Among Alaskans, it's one of the sharpest dents in her reputation. Second, no matter how hard she may try otherwise, Palin looks like the consummately corrupt politician here-- firing a long-serving, respectable public servant widely admired by the community, to please her political paymasters. It carries the added opprobrium of Palin taking action after Stambaugh had sought to reduce drunken driving-- the kind of issue on which everyone, across the political spectrum, is in agreement. Also provides an opportunity to remind the public of the prior DUI conviction for Sarah Palin's husband and the reckless endangerment of public welfare, providing yet another example of Palin's moralizing hypocrisy.
Finally, Policegate, like Librarygate, is a well-laid trap for the McCain campaign and their backers, and the kind of frustrating attack that will get under their skin. The Palin defenders will wail and cry that she did nothing illegal, and they'll try to make up other reasons for Stambaugh's firing, but the harder they try, the more attention it gets and the more corrupt and arrogant Palin appears to the public.
Background: Slightly complicated but not too much so, best wrapped up at the link here:
Dairygate is another scandal that has it all-- Palin's corruption and penchant for vendettas against innocent and qualified people (in this case, firing the entire Agricultural Board), screwing over ordinary Americans (the farmers who lost their shirts), and committing an act of massive waste and incompetence (the money-losing dairy failed anyway, and Palin had the not-so-bright idea of trying to auction it off at a price no sensible buyer would accept). A fiasco and a FUBAR from every angle.
Background: Both Sarah Palin and her husband as prominent members and directors of a party dedicated to Alaskan secession, the platform of which is openly and hostilely anti-American.
Lowdown: Sarah Palin was deliberately, openly, and prominently involved in a movement that was at best unpatriotic, at worst outright treasonous and dangerous.
Background: Little introduction needed
Lowdown: Troopergate is well-documented and most importantly, it's an active investigation, with results due in late October. It also reinforces the steadily gathering image of Sarah Palin as a petty, vindictive tyrant who abuses the power of her office to carry out personal vendettas (an accurate picture, actually).
Background: Sarah Palin fought for the same kinds of pork-barrel projects and federal government earmarks that John McCain himself has claimed to oppose, even hiring a lobbying company with links to corrupt and indicted Alaska Senator Ted Stevens.
Lowdown: Mainly a way to undercut McCain's maverick image, to show that despite his claims, he chose a prominent pork-barreler as his own running mate (and failed to vet her). Also reinforces the general mosaic of Sarah Palin's corruption, with the linkage to Ted Stevens and the same kinds of things that got him in trouble.
9. Polar Bear-Gate
Background: Sarah Palin, as governor of Alaska, has sought to repeal Endangered Species Protections for polar bears (and other animals), in part to open them up to hunting from the air.
Lowdown: Animal-lovers encompass the political spectrum, and portraying Palin as the heartless, arrogant killer of animals that she is does a lot to undercut her reputation. As far as the hunting angle goes, the vast majority of hunters (who tend to be environmentalists, actually) absolutely hate the idea of air-hunting, which they find to be cowardly and very unsporting. It does seem lazy at the very least.
Background: A grab bag of Sarah Palin's extremist views in certain areas which are ridiculously out of the mainstream, and still-running personal vendettas or assorted stupidity that have been lovingly recorded for posterity.
Lowdown: Palin wants to tear down the separation of church and state doctrine, teaching Creationism in US schools, while banning women from having the option of abortion even in cases of rape and incest. The vast majority of even the most vocal pro-life campaigners make exceptions in these cases. She is against even basic sex education (which she cut in the Alaska budget) and in favor of abstinence-only, which of course has failed spectacularly in her own family. She was clueless about the VP job when asked-- http://www.youtube.com/... -- and she seems obsessed with the belief that the War in Iraq is a divine mission, a rather dangerous view for someone who McCain would like to be in range of deadly serious authorization to fire deadly weapons and start major wars. George W. Bush, of course, also claimed such inspiration for Iraq, with catastrophic consequences. Palin has a long-running and embarrassingly petty feud with fellow Republican and respected Alaska official Lyda Green, whom Palin insulted like a high school girl in an infamous Alaska radio interview: http://www.adn.com/...
This is like a buffet category with enormous and still-growing menu, and we should all feel free to hammer Palin and McCain on these issues as they move us to. Lots of material for letters to the editor and other such communications, of course.
11. Water Break-Gate
Background: Again, little introduction needed. See links for quick refresher (especially the hilarious Sarah Palin Pregnancy Decision Map).
Basically, Sarah Palin's water broke prematurely in Dallas, Texas-- for a baby with Down Syndrome, supposedly her 5th pregnancy (babies after the first one tend to come out very fast, in a couple hours of labor), yet she gave a talk, then went to the airport, boarded a plane to Seattle never telling the flight crew of her imminent delivery, transferred in Seattle, flew to Anchorage, then rather than going to an Anchorage hospital (which has the only NICUs in Alaska) went to a Wasilla hospital to deliver her baby. At least, that's her claim. And in the meantime, she's dragged her daughter Bristol through the mud and in the most painful and public fashion.
Lowdown: I have indeed put this one last, though maybe not always for the expected reasons. To address (and acknowledge) some of the arguments of anyone who feels it should be ranked higher:
I do think that this scandal is of some legitimate public interest and further damaging to the McCain campaign (especially for low-information voters), and based on that Decision Map and the description above, I think it's pretty clear that Sarah was lying through her teeth-- no sensible person under such exigent circumstances, after amniotic sac rupture, would board a plane and then go to a tiny, non-NICU town hospital 20 hours later to deliver a DS baby prematurely. (And if Sarah were telling the truth, she'd be grossly irresponsible, putting her high-risk baby at additional risk for a dangerous delivery outside of a hospital and infection, and potentially forcing an emergency landing.) There are also issues of timing with the mononucleosis (the current pregnancy would have been conceived while the mono was still serious), claims from various corners that Sarah's claims about the current date of gestation are being fudged (or worse). Sarah Palin is without doubt a reprehensible and hypocritical person for exploiting Bristol Palin's pregnancy and (hardly unusual) teenage growing pains like this for her own perceived political gain, and telling what is likely a massive fabrication while hypocritically still claiming a right to intrude on the privacy of others, BUT...
First of all, focusing on this scandal inevitably involves Bristol, even if it (rightfully) targets Sarah for her callousness toward her own family and others around her. Bristol is dealing with enough as it is, and Obama is right to urge a firewall here. Second, our resources are better targeted at the scandals above, which have much more immediate yield and damage to the McCain campaign. Third, the National Enquirer and Weekly World News, among others, are doing the work for us on this topic-- it's a veritable bonanza for any publication involved in investigative journalism, both the upright and shady varieties. Best to just do our job, and let Enquirer and the others do their self-appointed duties.
Palingates 1-10 provide more than enough fodder as it is!
For the sake of this country's survival, Obama has to win this thing by a landslide. The Republicans are arrogantly trying to portray themselves as reformers in their Convention, and we need to constantly remind them and the public that it is the Republicans who are entrenched, and the current disastrous state of the country is directly a result of the blunders of John McCain, Sarah Palin, George W. Bush and their Republican colleagues. So take no prisoners, show no mercy, and unleash your killer instinct. Hit McCain/Palin hard, and hit them often!